Caragher Becomes Certified Instructor of Fore LLC Program

Jean Caragher

Jean Caragher, president of Capstone Marketing, is now a certified instructor of Fore LLC’s Advanced Pricing MethodsSM, created by Fore LLC president Michelle (Golden) River.

“Jean is a perfect fit to teach the worth-based pricing approach I’ve built and tested over the past decade,” says River. “As an expert in positioning CPA firms for success and growth, Jean is keenly aware of our profession’s evolution. The shift to price based on worth instead of the old charge-hour model requires a whole new skill set that Jean is teaching alongside me.”

Caragher says, “Pricing is one of the four P’s of marketing and requires communication skills, planning and empathy. Michelle has created a process for CPAs, including scoping and pricing techniques, that enables them to increase profitability, enhance the client experience, and build trust.”

The fundamentals of Advanced Pricing MethodsSM will be presented in a joint Fore LLC – Capstone Marketing webinar on Oct. 21.

A Conversation With BKD’s Dawn Howard On Misunderstandings, Expectations And Buying Decisions

Dawn Howard

Dawn Howard is the marketing director for the East Region of Springfield, Mo.-based BKD (FY18 net revenue of $594.6 million). She is responsible for working with 13 offices in seven states in developing and executing their commercial industries’ strategic marketing initiatives. She is passionate about business development coaching and mentoring for all levels of accounting professionals. Based in she is pursuing her master’s degree in management at the University of Indianapolis.

IPA caught up with Howard recently during a break at the AICPA’s 2019 ENGAGE conference in Las Vegas, where she presented a session on developing a strong sales pipeline process.

What should MPs understand about marketers? I think MPs need to check in with their marketing professionals about whether they feel empowered to hold partners accountable on following up with prospects. If they’re five years or less in the industry they may not feel they have the power to go to a 20-year partner and say, ‘Hey, you’re paying me to help grow the firm, I need to have this conversation with you.’ The MP needs to understand that sometimes they literally need to go to their marketing personnel and say, ‘I need you to know that I have your back.’ A lot of changes can come about with that one simple thing.

What do you think is the biggest misunderstanding managing partners have about the marketing function? MPs need to identify the line of demarcation between business development and marketing, and they need an understanding of what the firm or their particular office actually needs. Do we need someone who’s better on the PR side, or do we need a true business developer? It’s hard to find someone who is equally strong, as well as passionate, in both areas.

How would you define the difference? A business developer has a different mindset. Sales is a process-driven event, certainly in professional services – it’s a relationship game. Marketers look at the holistic view of the marketplace, in placement of ads or PR, so it’s a little bit different. They’re both good, but the MP has to make a determination that if one person is handling both things, that person needs some direction on what is expected. Sometimes marketing personnel think they know what the MP wants and vice versa. It’s imperative to have more than a once-a-year review to get something accomplished with that. My two favorite words strung together (other than free lunch) is ‘realistic expectations,’ and sometimes neither side has that.

Where do you think accounting marketing is going? Does it seem like it is going more in the direction of business development? The way the industry is going is that marketers are starting to understand two things better – one is the business development aspect of their job and the other part is the way that digital is playing into their job. We all have to be business developers. I’m taking a class at the University of Indianapolis right now, and they’re focusing on looking at HR from the outside in, from the perspective of an investor looking at a company. I think marketing needs to start doing that too, even though we don’t have investors, per se, but clients, as well as prospects and the general business marketplace, are on the outside looking in. Marketing people are really closet psychologists when we’re thinking about buyer behavior. For example, you’re not getting a buyer who has $20 million of their own money to suddenly change their advisor overnight, that’s a huge relationship sale. Being able to look at those clients and to understand what actually drives how they make decisions is huge, and really should be included as a part of the sales training for internal marketers.

More news from BKD

Capstone Marketing Launches Webinar Series

Capstone Marketing is beginning a series of eight 50-minute webinars each eligible for one CPE credit.

“As summer approaches many CPAs are thinking of taking a well-deserved vacation,” says Jean Caragher, Capstone Marketing’s president. “That’s fantastic; they also deserve to spend 50 minutes every other week for their personal growth in marketing and business development. Participants will finish their summers with more than a tan.”

The Summer Series will be held from 2-2:50 p.m. Eastern. The lineup includes:

  • June 25: Three Things High Performing Firms Don’t Want You to Know
  • July 9: Marketing Planning: Firm, Niche, Personal
  • July 23: How to Develop Your Referral Source Network
  • Aug. 6: Five Ways to Boost Your Social Media Profile
  • Aug. 20: Six Essentials for Lead-Generating Websites
  • Sept. 3: How to Find Your Business Development ‘Sweet Spot’
  • Sept. 17: Client Retention Strategies Every Firm Can Use
  • Oct. 1: How to Fire a Client

The cost is $39 per webinar. The Capstone Summer Series bundle of all eight webinars is $234, which represents a 25% discount.

Shier Named AAM’s 2019 Marketer of the Year

Holly Shier

Holly Shier

Holly Shier, principal and chief marketing officer at Troy, Mich.-based Rehmann, has received the Association for Accounting Marketing’s (AAM) 2019 Marketer of the Year award, sponsored by INSIDE Public Accounting (IPA).

The winner was announced by IPA June 12 at AAM’s annual Summit, held in partnership with the AICPA ENGAGE conference in Las Vegas.

Shier leads marketing and communications efforts, brand awareness and growth strategies for Rehmann, which was ranked No. 41 on the 2018 IPA 100 list of largest accounting firms in the country. Shier is responsible for a $1.7 million marketing budget and supervises a staff of nearly 20 individuals.

Shier has led a transformation of Rehmann’s marketing approach and ensured integration of its “OneRehmann” service model. The firm’s service model deploys cross-functional teams to address a broad range of issues clients face, rather than promoting individual services.

“Holly instills a natural desire to help our clients be successful by bringing our OneRehmann service model to bear, ensuring we are consistently communicating our transformative solutions,” says CEO Randy Rupp, who nominated Shier for the prestigious award.

Rupp credits her with the “colossal effort” of researching and articulating the needs of clients and creating go-to-market strategies for the firm’s various niches. 

Additionally, Shier analyzed data from client surveys, panels and focus groups to create the firm’s latest advertising campaign, Rupp says. Through the data, a story emerged that clients weren’t particularly interested in services, per se, but in resolving issues surrounding business growth, transitioning to retirement and managing their money afterward. “Holly had the foresight to dig into the emotion behind these critical moments to understand what spurred the need for our services.”

“The marketing industry is tremendously dynamic,” said Shier. “There are constant changes and trends to be aware of because the dial is always moving. To be recognized as Marketer of the Year is a true honor. Accolades like this highlight the hard work, dedication and support of my team and it’s a great feeling to be noticed in such a competitive industry.”

Shier, referred to as the firm’s “dot-connector,” has restructured the marketing team, created a formalized business combination process and obtained naming rights to the Rehmann Club in the Little Caesars Arena, home of the Detroit Red Wings and the Detroit Pistons.

In addition to her work developing the firm’s strategic vision and serving on numerous firm committees, Shier is heavily involved in the Detroit chapter of the American Marketing Association. She served as president from 2018-2019 and volunteers for DECA, a nonprofit organization that prepares students for careers in finance and marketing, among others.

This is the sixth year that IPA has sponsored the Marketer of the Year award. A panel of independent judges, themselves leaders in the profession, were selected by IPA to review and score each of the 2019 nominees.

Nominations Open For 2019 Marketer of the Year, INSIDE Public Accounting Again Sponsors Top Honor for Association for Accounting Marketing

INSIDE Public Accounting (IPA) is seeking nominations for the Association for Accounting Marketing’s (AAM) 2019 Marketer of the Year award. Nominations will be accepted through Feb. 25.

The annual award, presented at AAM’s Summit, recognizes a marketing professional who has demonstrated exemplary performance in the profession of accounting firm marketing. To be eligible, nominees must have held a senior-level marketing position in an accounting firm for at least three years, although not necessarily at the same firm.

All nominations should be submitted online no later than Feb. 25. Nominations are not anonymous, and self-nominations are welcome. Previous nominees are encouraged to participate as well. All nominees will be required to complete an online application no later than March 15. Additional details will be outlined once a nomination form has been received.

“Accounting firm marketers are well positioned to bring a new way of thinking to the profession,” says IPA publisher Kelly Platt. “Sponsoring the most prestigious award in accounting marketing is our opportunity to recognize a true leader who is driving their firm forward.”

The nominees will be ranked by an anonymous panel of judges on accomplishments, strategic thinking, financial impact, tactical development, collaboration, business development, analytics and technology, and leadership within the firm and community.

“The AAM Marketer of the Year nominees are always trendsetters in the industry, and we expect no different from this year’s group,” says AAM president Craig Browning, director of marketing and personnel at Alexandria, Va.-based KWC CPAs. “We are anxiously awaiting what new visions our peers have for the industry, thus we encourage everyone to participate.”

The 2019 Marketer of the Year award will be presented by IPA at AAM’s Summit, set for June 11-13 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. The Summit is held in partnership with the AICPA ENGAGE conference, June 9-13.

Past award winners include Nicole Gantz of Dubuque, Iowa-based Honkamp Kruger & Co. in 2018, Laura Kucera of New York-based Citrin Cooperman in 2017, Rhonda Maraziti of Princeton, N.J.-based Withum in 2016, Eric Majchrzak, of Tucson, Ariz.-based BeachFleischman in 2015, and Randy Mowat of Calgary, Alberta-based MNP in 2014.

Please contact Christina Camara at with questions about the award. For information about AAM and the 2019 summit, call AAM at (859) 402-9769.

About INSIDE Public Accounting
The Platt Group publishes the award-winning INSIDE Public Accounting newsletter and the IPA Annual Survey and Analysis of Firms Benchmarking Report. The Platt Group surveys and publishes annual reports for the accounting profession in Human Resources, Firm Administration and Information Technology. Grow your firm, become more profitable and improve operations with IPA. IPA provides resources, analysis and tools to transform your firm. To learn more about The Platt Group and IPA, please call (317) 733-1920 or visit

About the Association for Accounting Marketing
The Association for Accounting Marketing (AAM) promotes excellence, and elevates the professional stature of marketing, business development and other practice growth professionals to the accounting profession, directly impacting members’ professional development and careers through education, networking and thought leadership. Founded in 1989, AAM has more than 700 members, comprised of marketing professionals, business developers, CPAs, consultants, service providers, educators and students. To learn more about AAM, please call (859) 402-9769 or visit

Firms Plan to Raise Presence on Social Media

Accounting firms of every size plan to increase their use of social media, according to a study on accounting firm marketing and business development.

In fact, sole practitioners (47%) and firms with 11 to 50 people (59%) ranked social media as the top marketing tool they will be increasing.

“Firms that aren’t focused on social media as part of their marketing mix will be left behind,” says Jean Caragher, president of Capstone Marketing. “There is a synergy between social media, thought leadership and networking that is vital to new business development.”

Capstone Marketing and Bay Street Group conducted the 2018 Marketing and Business Development Strategies at Accounting Firms study, published by CPA Trendlines.

According to the survey:

  • The use of social media has become an integral, routine marketing activity with half of all firms making it a priority in 2012 (57%) and 2018 (56%).
  • Firms that employ members of the Association for Accounting Marketing (AAM) are 1.3 times more likely to increase their use of social media compared to firms without AAM members, 64% versus 48%.
  • High-performing firms (69%) and low-performing firms (54%) ranked social media as the top marketing tool they will be increasing.

The topline results of the survey are free to the participants and detailed analyses and recommendations are being unveiled in a series of 30-minute webinars continuing with:

“5 Ways to Boost Your Social Media Profile,” set for 2-2:30 p.m. Eastern, Aug. 28.

To get the complete report go to

Study: High-Performing Firms are 14 Times as Likely to Have Revenue Growth that Surpasses Competitors

High-performing firms are excelling in marketing culture, marketing goal achievement, marketing plan development and more.

That’s according to the “2018 Marketing and Business Development Strategies at Accounting Firms” study by Capstone Marketing and Bay Street Group, published by CPA Trendlines.

“Over the past 18 months, 66% of high-performing firms have increased their marketing and business development activities (time, money and/or resources) versus 37% for low performers,” says Jean Caragher, president of Capstone Marketing. “This investment is paying dividends in firm growth.”

The topline results of the survey are free to the participants and detailed analyses and recommendations are scheduled to be unveiled in a series of 30-minute webinars, starting with “3 Things High Performing Firms Don’t Want You to Know.”

According to the survey, high performing firms are:

  • Eight times more likely than lagging firms to have a marketing culture.
  • More than six times more likely to be satisfied with their marketing strategies and activities.
  • More than four times more likely to follow a written, strategic marketing/business development plan.

“Clearly, high-performing firms are doing many things right, which makes them more competitive,” says Rick Telberg, CEO of Bay Street Group LLC. “Low-performing firms have the opportunity to learn from the best in class firms.”

Overheard At The 2018 AAM Summit …

“Brand awareness is one of the worst marketing terms ever invented. Relevance is what you want.” – Jeff McKay, founder and CEO of Prudent Pedal, a marketing consulting firm.

Requiring employees to fill out timesheets is treating your team “like an input and not a creative professional.” – Jody Padar, CEO, New Vision CPA Group, on everyday innovation.

“Don’t let professionalism suffocate personality,” John Garrett, comedian and “Recovering CPA.”

“Pull back and give them space. If they’re going to find their way, they’re going to find it without getting crowded by you,” Guy Gage, owner of PartnersCoach, advising marketers on supporting partners to get involved in marketing without taking on too much responsibility.

“It’s amazing.  When we write things down, they tent to stick with us and they tend to get accomplished.” – Kevin Gienger, MP, Boldt Carlisle, on writing down three priorities for the day and the week.

“If your job gets taken by a bot, your job probably sucks anyway,” Ed Kless, senior director of partner development and strategy at Sage.

“Innovation is more important to today’s customers than relationships.” – Jody Padar

“This blockchain thing is real. Bitcoin may not be,” Ed Kless

On putting the best minds in the firm to work on preparing for the future, Ed Kless says,  “Why do we still have brain surgeons piercing ears?”

Skoda Minotti Appoints Fieldman as Director of Marketing

Alyson Fieldman

Alyson Fieldman

Cleveland-based Skoda Minotti (FY17 net revenue of $53.7 million) announced that Alyson Fieldman has been appointed director of marketing. Fieldman will lead and oversee marketing, business development and communications strategies for the firm.

Fieldman has more than 15 years of experience in professional services marketing. As director of marketing for Skoda Minotti, she will work closely with leadership to set the firm’s marketing strategy in order to grow the business and its service lines. Specific expertise includes branding, business strategy, business development/sales, content marketing, management, marketing communications, public relations, social media and website development.

Prior to joining Skoda Minotti, Fieldman was managing director of client service for One North, a Chicago-based digital agency focused on professional services. She worked her way up from project manager during her decade-long tenure there. Prior to that, she was an account manager at Greenfield/Belser, a Washington, D.C.-based branding agency with expertise in the legal industry.

“Our search process identified candidates that were all outstanding in their own regard, yet Alyson was exceptional,” says Jonathan Ebenstein, partner and managing director of Skoda Minotti’s Strategic Marketing Group. “Her extensive marketing and communications background, combined with professional service experience, adds tremendous depth to the firm. Alyson understands what drives us, because it’s driven her, too. Her insight on business communications allows us to understand and meet our clients’ diverse needs.”

Lessons From The Little Oregon Winery That Could, And Other True Stories Of Differentiation

What can the proprietors of a tiny Oregon winery teach accounting firm leaders? More than you might think.

Consider the challenge faced by the family-run Bells Up Winery. With a nonexistent marketing budget, Dave and Sara Specter needed to position their winery as different among more than 500 competitors, while selling a product that is readily available. In a market environment similar to accounting, where hundreds of same-sounding firms sell same-sounding tax and audit products, the Specters needed to get creative.

The key to surviving, and thriving, is exceptional customer experience, they told a crowd of marketers at the annual Association for Accounting Marketing (AAM) Summit in Portland, Ore., May 16. AAM invited numerous accounting experts along with Portland marketing professionals to offer lessons learned on innovation and differentiation during the three-day conference.

The fully self-funded Bells Up Winery faced an uphill battle from the beginning. With no money, no employees and no time, the husband-and-wife team watched competitors flood the cool, grape-friendly Willamette Valley to make Pinot Noir, the wine that made the valley famous. While Oregon produces only 1% of the country’s wine, it captures 20% of Wine Spectator’s domestic 90+ ratings, according to the Oregon Wine Board.

The wine board also tracks how fast the market is growing. It says 1.8 million cases of Oregon wine were sold out of state in 2016, the vast majority of it Pinot Noir, compared with 888,000 cases 10 years earlier. Bells Up needed to compete against giants like Willamette Valley Vineyards that produces 132,000 cases a year. Small, artisan producers are those who make 5,000 cases per year. Bells Up Winery produces 400.

Too small to be called a boutique winery, the Specters decided to play up their personality and tiny size. They spent only $500 on Facebook ads in marketing, and asked college students to make them a promotional video, for free.

While Oregon wineries offer huge, fancy tasting rooms to bring in business, Bells Up calls itself a “micro-boutique” winery offering small-group tastings with Dave Specter, a former Big 4 tax accountant turned winemaker. These “meet the winemaker” excursions have proven to be the differentiator that fulfilled their strategy: “to turn every guest into an ambassador for our wines, our wine-tasting experience and our brand.” Social media shares of #bellsupmoment and online reviews contributed to the winery breaking even and paying for itself in less than 18 months, which is very rare in the industry.

Their experience in innovation – offering truly different, personalized customer experiences in their specialty niche – was echoed many times throughout the conference, where attendees were urged to let their personalities shine though, tell their own stories, and reject the fear that can accompany business disruption and the mandate to innovate.

Here are some examples:

Be a Green Apple in a Bushel of Red OnesJohn Garrett, a comedian and “recovering CPA,” mocked the often-used label of “trusted advisor,” saying that CPAs are in a “trust rut.” He says, “The more you talk, the more people are turned off by ‘me, me, me.’ ” People remember your hobbies more than your technical skills, he says. Promote yourself as a CPA and an actor in community theater, and show a genuine interest in your clients.

Get Personal – Tracey Segarra, a former New York reporter who is now an award-winning storyteller and marketing director for Margolin Winer & Evens, says sharing vulnerabilities can forge meaningful connections, and science backs this up. Studies have shown that hearing stories releases oxytocin, a hormone that feeds empathy and trust. “Be the storyteller that’s inside you.”

Involve Your Fans – Corey Dolich, senior vice president of business operations and marketing at the Portland Timbers, the city’s professional soccer club, says the Timbers aim to make an emotional connection with their fans that transcends individual players and even the performance of the team. Marketing, instead, is focused on Portland pride and fellow fans, reflected in a hugely successful, massive billboard campaign that featured city fans posing with axes, the symbol of the Timbers.

Take a Risk With Weird – Ajay Date, vice president of marketing at Travel Portland, says the city found its differentiator with “Dude,” created to promote Portland to Japanese tourists. “Dude” is a big blue furry mascot that appears at events in Tokyo. “It’s weird, but weird plays pretty well in Japan.” After three years, it’s working, Date says. Tourists from Japan have increased 16% while U.S. destinations overall are seeing a 9% decrease. Go boldly but not blindly. Take a leap anyway. You can’t let the data always dictate everything.”